Deciphering the influence of column chemistry and mass spectrometry settings for the analyses of geometrical isomers of L-chicoric acid

Keabetswe Masike, Fidele Tugizimana, Nombuso Ndlovu, Elize Smit, Louis du Preez, Ian Dubery, Edwin Madala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Resolving the chemo-diversity of plant extract samples is an essential step for in-depth analyses of natural products which often exhibit promising biological activities. One of the challenges in this endeavor has been the confident differentiation of geometrical isomers. In this study, we investigated these aspects in chromatography (column chemistry and mobile phase composition) and mass spectrometry settings with regards to better differentiation of geometrical isomers. A standard of a hydroxycinnamic acid (HCA) derivative, L-chicoric acid (L-CA) – a di-acylated caffeoyltartaric acid ester found in a number of plant families – was used. Geometrical isomers of L-CA were formed by exposing the compound to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, to mimic the natural environment. The high performance liquid chromatography photo-diode array (HPLC-PDA) and ultra-high performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (UHPLC–MS) platforms were used to analyze the trans and cis geometrical isomers of L-CA. The HPLC-PDA results confirmed the generation of two cis geometrical isomers following UV exposure of the authentic trans-L-CA standard. Furthermore, the HPLC-PDA analyses demonstrated that the changes in both column chemistry (reverse-phase: C18, biphenyl, phenyl-hexyl and pentafluorophenyl propyl) and mobile phase composition (aqueous acetonitrile and aqueous methanol) affect the chromatographic elution profiles of the L-CA isomers. The MS results, on the other hand, revealed undisputed fragmentation differences between the geometrical isomers of L-CA. Thus, this study demonstrates that the identification of the L-CA isomers can be achieved more efficiently and confidently with good chromatography coupled to well-optimized mass spectrometry conditions, a requirement which has been proven impossible with other types of HCA derivatives. Moreover, differences in the binding modes of L-CA geometrical isomers to the HIV type 1 integrase enzyme were observed, suggesting a synergistic anti-HIV-1 activity of these isomers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Chromatography B: Analytical Technologies in the Biomedical and Life Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Chicoric acid (di-caffeoyltartaric acid)
  • Fragmentation
  • Geometrical isomers
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Photochemical reaction
  • Ultra-violet (UV) light
  • cis/trans isomerization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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